Holy (Cow) Week

Not just another cow in the pasture

At seven, I sat sobbing in the back row of LaSelle Auditorium having failed to make the cut.  I had auditioned to be a mouse in the local ballet performance of The Nutcracker.  After the announcement of  call-backs, the director pulled me aside.  “You’re a good dancer”, he explained,”but you are too big for the costumes.”  I then watched as my sisters were picked to be a Bon Bon and Party Girl respectively.  I felt like a failure.

At eight, I cried in the dressing room of the local department store abhorring the bright pink corduroys  reflecting back at me.  I had tried on every pair of pants in the store and they were the only ones that fit.  My mother pleaded from the other side of the curtain, trying to convince me to buy them in purple and turquoise as well.  I felt like a poorly dyed easter egg.

At nine, I hid in the corner of my bedroom trying to force the tears back to their ducts.  My mother had just returned from parent-teacher conferences where the teacher felt no need  to discuss my well-above-grade level academics.  Instead my mother was condemned for my weight, bombarded with disgust at how quickly I ate my lunch, pointedly asked what she planned to do about it.  I felt like a disappointment.

At ten, and in the days when you could still bring homemade cupcakes to school, my class planned a costume party.  My mother took me shopping .  I chose a cow costume. Really, I wanted the one with an udder but it only came in adult sizes.  My self-image fully developed, I remember thinking I could probably fit into the adult large on the hanger.  I also remember the look in my mother’s eye, as she suggested the clown costume instead.  I knew what the look meant.  She was trying to spare me the certain teasing I would endure.  Can you imagine the fat kid showing up to school in a cow costume?

Determined, I insisted on the cow.  It was this strange collision of surrender and empowerment.   I knew what people thought of me, what they saw when they looked at me.  There was no fight left in me.  I no longer wanted to try out for the parts I did not fit, try on the image I could not keep,  trying to gain approval I could not obtain.

Wearing it to school, I heard the snickers and interpreted the whispers.  Strangely, I didn’t care.  I found it significantly easier to be what others saw on the surface than to fight for the person longing to break through.

Over two-thousand years ago, Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey.  The crowds came out waving branches and throwing their cloaks on the ground for Him. “Hosanna!,”  they cried. It was a prayer meant only for Jehovah.  It meant literally: save, please.  Yet, when asked who He was, they referred to Him as a prophet, not a Savior.   Their hope in Him, was that He would free them from the Roman rule.

Jesus was God.  He could have come to Earth, demanded to be followed, overthrown the Roman Empire.  He could have simply lived up to the expectations of those who waived the branches.  They would have settled for political asylum.

By the time of His arrest just days later, His heroes welcome had all but worn off.  To the crowds He was a disappointment and failure.  He had overturned to tables in the temple, but left Rome intact.  He remained silent before His accusers and died the death of a common criminal.

Jesus could have worn the cow’s costume, accepted the expectations that others had of Him, it would have been easier.

Instead,  He died and rose to provide true salvation.  Because of His defiance and determination to take the hard way, we know the true meaning of Hosanna.

We know also that when He tells us to take up our cross and follow, He is asking us to take the hard way — to take off the cow costume, to no longer settle for what others see on our surface, to no longer live vulnerable to others expectations.

We now cry Hosanna, not to be free from circumstances, but to be free to live as God intended not as others expected.